Review | SolidS “DIAMOND”

SolIdS

SolidS surprise with an elegant take on their trademark passionate sound in DIAMOND.

For the CARDS series, card suits – Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds and Spades – are split within each unit series: ALIVE (SOARA, Growth) and SQ (SolidS and QUELL). Each group in a unit series will be in charge of two card suits. The themes explored in each release are closely related to playing cards.

SolidS DIAMOND

Title: SQ 「CARDS」 Series Volume 2 SolidS 「DIAMOND」
Label: Tsukipro/Movic 
Release date: 24/04/2020 
Genre: Jazz-rock / Acoustic / Ballad

Tracklist:

1 - GAME IS MINE 
2 - Timeless 
3 - GAME IS MINE -off vocal- 
4 - Timeless -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

1 – GAME IS MINE

GAME IS MINE is unlike anything SolidS have released before. The flamboyance and allure in jazz music is at center stage in this dimly lit club to which the listener is transported to.

The contrabass reverberates. And suddenly, you are deep into that classy melody that is dictating an exciting pacing for this track. The drums as simple, riding on a warm snare sound and powerful bass drum, adding some depth to this song.

Brass add a layer of elegance and “danger” – you know what I am talking about – to this track, adding the final touches to this fancy soundscape. The tension in the verses is handled in a different way than usual for SolidS. Instead of going all out

As we get to the pre-chorus, a rhodes piano melody makes its way – yet in a muffled way -, quieting the other instruments for a brief couple of seconds, putting the complete spotlight into SolidS‘ vocals. This is such a little detail but gives a neat touch to this track. The bridge puts once again the focus on the contrabass melody but adds gated guitar riffs into the mix. On top of that you get fancy, ethereal vocals from the tenor team.

Vocally, there is a lot going on.

For starters, can we talk about having Soma Saito delivering those lines in the intro in a low, alluring tone? Perfect set of tone for this track, both fitting the character in question – Tsubasa – but also Saito’s newfound “sexy” edge on the vocal end.

But let’s not forget about everyone else.

GAME IS MINE is a team performance of the highest quality. If there is something that you’ll notice when listening to this song is that SolidS continue to play around with their increasingly vocal quality and varied skillsets.

The baritone team – Takuya Eguchi and Yuichiro Umehara – and the tenor team – Soma Saito and Natsuki Hanae – work in an interesting way for this track.

Depth – there is a lot of vibrato going on – and flair is provided by the baritone team. At the same time the sexy edge is added by the high notes, harmonies and falsetto by the tenor team. Add both teams and you get a dynamic performance in which all voices are easy to tell apart.

All shining.

All in the spotlight.

And you can’t take your eyes (ears) off of them.

That is the epitome of a charismatic and alluring performance in my books and with an instrumental like this one, this is a sure fire winner.

2 – Timeless

Things change once again and for Timeless, the quartet surprises by ditching their trademark alluring edge. You read it well. Ditch their trademark alluring sound.

Timeless is such a pleasant surprise to find in DIAMOND. It is inspiring and beautiful. For a group all about power and fiery passion – about alcohol and or women -, this is a massive departure from their themes and sound.

An inspiring piano melody, strings hits and a simple snare + clap track slowly hold the listener’s hand, taking us along this unique trip. Acoustic guitars join in the track just as we get to the pre-chorus, never to go away while adding a warmth and relatable touch to the track. The chorus adds electric guitar riffs and a sitar accent in the background, adding to the emotional tone in this track.

The 1st and 2nd verses are different in tone, with the 1st being rawer but, surprisingly, with the 2nd being more powerful when it comes to hitting your emotions in the right places. The slow pacing and focus on the vocals is yet another point that I love about this song.

For example, the bridge. The build up made on the vocal side, leading to that ethereal falsetto by Natsuki Hanae is perfect to showcase what the focus of this song is: the vocals and, preferably, the lyrics. The unusual, warm and gentle lyrics coming from a group that you’d never dream would challenge themselves to do it.

The vocals are stellar in this track. Once again, with a quiet, acoustic instrumental, the focus lies on the vocals and SolidS had to be on point if they wanted to leave a positive mark. While not particularly known for performing ballads, the experience that each member brings to this group as well as their chemistry, made it possible to pull off an emotional, relatable performance that resonates with the listener.

The consistency and control in their vocals made this performance standout but the MVP on the vocal end is, undoubtedly, Hanae. A big part of those details that make chills run down my spine, each time I hit play on this song, come from his vocals. Great technique and control made him shine.

A song I didn’t know I was in need of coming from SolidS. Masterful performance.

Final considerations

SolidS upped their game for their entry in the CARDS series.

DIAMOND shines way beyond what was expected coming from what is the franchise’s well known passionate and alluring quartet. Vocals were crisp, distinctive. Perfect line distribution and a consistency and control on everyone’s vocals put everyone in SolidS in the same page.

Aside from the obvious improvement on the vocal end, the instrumentals were completely unexpected and so were the vibes/themes in both songs.

A massive thank you to John san for the breathtaking – and unexpected – compositions in this release.

GAME IS MINE created a rich soundscape that takes the listener to an elegant, small jazz club for a performance that could as well be forbidden due to how much the group has leveled up their allure for it.

The fact that the whole song was build around a simple contrabass riff is something that makes it sound rather unique and exotic. This is a big change from their electronic-rock sound that, more often than not, is riding on top of a cool synth line or fancy guitar riff.

Guys, remember: their last release was the electronica-heavy – I AM A BARTENDER. This is a massive change in sound for the quartet.

The energy is off the charts although the song is far from being insanely fast like some of their previous brief touches on jazz music – i.e. SEXY☆SENSE. The tempo was perfect, and the instrumentalization, progression and performances were the best I’ve heard coming from SolidS.

Timeless is the kind of song that you’d easily hand to QUELL or even SOARA.

Yet, SolidS got to perform it.

An acoustic ballad.

No innuendos.

No talk about alcohol or women.

Just a straightforward song in which SolidS bare their hearts for their fans.

While sounding a bit off in the first couple of seconds – due to how unexpected it is -, the song starts to slowly sink in, and in, and in… When you get to the 1st chorus, you’re already completely invested into this song and totally surrendered to SolidS’ unexpected sweet and honest side.

While most groups would start going into creative stagnation after 5 years in the industry, SolidS continue to reinvent themselves and improving by heaps and bounds. Vocally, SolidS continue to surpass themselves and if it wasn’t noticeable in the previous releases, it now is obvious.

This is the most balanced the group has sounded since debut – and it is specially surprising given how they have been pretty balanced and consistent in the past 2 years.

It has been a delight to follow their evolution – even with its hiccups along the way -, and finding this insanely talented group of male seiyuu being completely confident in their skills and acing any kind of composition that is thrown at them.

SolidSDIAMOND is a must listen release for this and much more. Make sure to check it out if you can.

SQ 「CARDS」 Series Volume 2 SolidS「DIAMOND」 is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

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